October 7, 2022

Music to “Redress Historical Injustice” with the “silenced” Elcano

Xavier Smith.

Madrid, Sept 23 (EFE) .- Juan Sebastián Elcano arrived in Spain on Sept 6, 1522 at the head of 17 men and a ship barely afloat to become the first sailor to complete the circumnavigation of the globe, but his feat remained “silenced” and poorly paid, “a historic injustice” that attempts to restore music 500 years later.

That is one of the engines of “Cantate Juan Sebastián Elcano”, composed by Gabriel Loidi and with libretto and narration by Martín Llade, which will stop next Thursday at the National Auditorium in a special concert with the participation of the Titular Orchestra and Choir or the Teatro Real, conducted by Miguel Pérez-Sierra.

The celebration is part of the acts of the fifth centenary of the first circumnavigation of the Earth in history, which began in 1519 with an expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan consisting of five ships and more than 200 men aimed at a passage found between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

After thousands of ups and downs, including the death of the captain, the few survivors chose Elcano as responsible for the return journey and decided to sail west through the Indian Ocean and around Africa aboard a single boat that had to be rescued. constantly so as not to sink.

“Almost no one outside of Spain remembers it. It amazes me that there is so much talk about Magellan, who didn’t go around the world, nor had the desire or the intention,” protests Llade in statements to Efe when asked about the origin of this piece. “If Elcano hadn’t come back to Sanlúcar, nobody would have known Magellan,” Loidi added.

Both authors, who had already collaborated in the past on a cantata about Basque whalers, agreed during a casual walk that the greatest maritime deed ever performed by a compatriot of theirs had been, but that his voice ” was still silenced 500 years later”, disassembled from historical accounts such as that of Pigafetta, one of the surviving expeditions and a friend of the Portuguese.

“It was a historical injustice that had to be rectified as much as possible”, they thought as they immersed themselves in the creation of this cantata which, through his friend and confidant Andrés de Urdaneta, recounts that incredible journey until his death in 1526 in another expedition, “very in debt” because the pension that Carlos I promised him never came into his hands.

For Loidi, the mission of the music in this case is to “enliven and clarify the emotions that the text evokes” and, convinced for this purpose that “the real protagonist is the whole expedition”, he wondered how he could give to the emotions of those sailors, “little expressive, sparse in words, harsh and very stoic”.

“In my town, in Orio (Guipúzcoa), very close to where Elcano was born, emotions were channeled through the choir, where people sang and very well,” he tells us about why the Royal Theater Choir plays such an important role in this cantata which is in reality “halfway through the opera, because there are small semi-staged pieces by some solo voices”.

For him, that “Shakespearian” story had it all: attacks by indigenous peoples, the persecution of the Portuguese fleet, mutinies and all the bad weather and wonders of nature, such as the fire of San Telmo, an electrical phenomenon that sailors were unaware of. until then and interpreted as a divine sign.

“The whole orchestra will be at the service of those conditions: a storm, the death of the captains who revolt, hunger, the sea and death when there is no turning back,” points out Loidi’s main difference with the previous premiere of this cantata, which took place in 2018, then together with the RTVE choir and in the form of a quintet for wind and percussion.

As on that occasion, when he shaved his head to better portray the role of the monk Urdaneta, it will be Llade himself who acts as the narrator. “But this time without tonsure”, he emphasizes with a laugh.

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